What I’ve been up to

Not sure if anyone cares but here goes:

I’ve been immersed into learning more about the mind, body, and spirit through the relationships we have with diet, exercise, and thought patterns. Mostly through the yoga therapy program I’m enrolled in for the next two years of my life, and also from self exploration. I apologize I have not been able to keep up to date on this blog.

 

HOWEVER, I don’t want to lose momentum so I’ve set up a reminder to post at least ONCE PER WEEK. Regardless how long or short the post turns out to be, having that commitment is very important. It’s just like staying committed to your yoga practice, or learning a new language!

 

Feel free to follow me on my main website: jenallenyoga.com

And here’s the latest interview I did. Hoping to have many many many more!!

http://jenallenyoga.com/2015/03/13/interview-with-geoff-blake/

Advertisements

The Ways We Learn Yoga

There are usually three different ways a new student learns yoga: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Each student is going to learn yoga in a different and unique ratio of these three areas. Heck, they might even call memory recall and dreaming as another form of visual learning because that is what I remember during my early days as a student.

The first time I participated in a yoga class was through a community college course in the beginning of 2009. I had never done yoga in a classroom setting and it will always be an exhilarating memory as it helped me stay grounded when teaching beginners yoga. During class I barely paid attention to what the teacher was saying.  Yeah, words were coming out of her mouth and she had a genuine smile on her face most of the time, which made me think she was saying kind stuff all the time but I honestly don’t even remember what her voice sounds like. (I do remember slightly that she was a petite, Asian woman with two boys for children, and that’s about it!) All I thought about was myself during the first few lessons. It was a shot to the ego. Having difficulties in being able to do a seated forward fold (paschimottanasana) brought me back to reality real quick. Our bodies are a reflection of our choices and mine over those years included late night energy drink binges with fast food in my diet almost every day. The yoga instructor flowed gracefully from pose to pose demonstrating a lot during the first two classes (we had an 8 week session format) and then moving and teaching around the room throughout the remaining sessions with less demo.

Now, I teach primarily beginners in yoga and am usually able to spot a completely new student to yoga. It’s even better when they introduce themselves to me, allowing me to give them some simple advice…the same advice I give to the intermediate and advanced students, “keep breathing and have fun”.  It’s really not that big of a deal if you don’t get the posture exactly like I’m showing you. In fact, I want you to explore with a variation of the pose until you feel comfortable going into the full blown full lotus posture. That being said, my demos (which usually include variations depending on what is going on for your body that day), are for those that are visual learners. They can be an idea of where you can possibly go in the asana. It’s not quite monkey see, monkey do.  Yoga is very forgiving, and you should be too, of your self and current abilities.

Next thing, practice practice practice. For those that are kinesthetic learners, I’m talking to you. If you continuously look around on how you should be doing the posture, instead just try it out. Experiment on and off the mat within a controlled range of motion for your body. What does this even mean? Go ahead and just practice a few postures (I suggest warming up your body first with more gentle postures) that you really want to take some time to get in to or make up your own sequence!

This next one, is really easy to do when you do one simple act, close your eyes. That works for me and hopefully it will work for you! Just close your eyes and listen to the teacher’s words. Heck, I say some preeettyyyy corny stuff sometimes just to see if people are listening…well that and it’s sort of part of my personality so they are hard to separate. But listening is somewhat of a dead skill it seems. Maybe all those jokes about “selective hearing” are true but I can tell you many times I’ve zoned in and out of listening to a teacher during class. Sometimes their audible cues come at just the right moment and an “A-HA!” moment occurs and kittens are dancing everywhere in my mind along with unicorns flying in the sky and I feel at one with the moon.

Yeah, listening is an important skill indeed. That being said, enjoy the process and the flow of the practice as it works through you and then you in return work through it. (I’ll tell you when you’re older)

So, what is the best way you’ve learned something?  Feel free to comment below. I’m curious to know what has worked for others. In return, I hope it can make me a better teacher to help translate what I know into something you can know and feel in your mind, body, and spirit while practicing yoga.

Namaste!
Shanti, Shanti.

Partner Yoga

image

Jen Allen and Nick Murphy

I can’t believe how far we have gotten since this image was taken in 2014. Really looking forward to posting new media on our progress soon. I’m also basing new flyers now too!

There are a few workshops coming up that I’m hoping to check out.

As Phattahbi Jois said “Practice and all is coming”, consistency is key.

Happy New Year!!

A Little Announcement: My Future Plans in Yoga

Starting in 2015, I’ll be entering into a Master of Science in Yoga Therapy program at Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia).

Check them out here: www.muih.edu

logoOver the next two years (and the rest of my life), I will be learning more in depth about yoga and it’s uses in therapy along with tools for setting up a practice to do! This will also be part of my 500-hr yoga teacher training as well (accredited by Yoga Alliance) and just recently MUIH got IAYT (International Association of Yoga Therapists) accreditation as well! Exciting to know they are getting recognition from different bodies of education (Maryland Higher Learning Council) along with the student feedback I’ve heard.

Thai Yoga and Massage

TIHA300pxIn addition to that, I’ll be improving my Thai Yoga Massage skill set. So I hope to be offering those services to my students in 2015! I will be down in Virginia learning from the Thai Institute.

Elements of Italy: 10 Day Yoga Retreat and Italian Cultural Immersion Experience

lakegarda2The 2015 Italy March retreat provided by Italiana Travel and Jen Allen Yoga has been postponed to accommodate my new learning schedule. If you’re interested in going on a yoga/tourism retreat in Italy with me and receiving COMPLETE IMMERSION into the culture through food, yoga, holistic health, English-speaking tours, spa visits, and more, then please contact me at jen@jenallenyoga.com or leave a message in the comments below. Here is more information about the retreat.

2015 Yoga Event Schedule

Speaking of 2015 events, I’ve been planning yoga events for 2015 to host and co-host with other teachers. So far I have a few lined up but am not ready to announce them publicly yet. Let’s just say, I’m REALLY excited!  I announce all events on my website: here: http://www.jenallenyoga.com/index.php/events
(I also announce on social media as much as possible but please check my website for up to date information)

There’s a weekend workshop intensive coming up SOON in January  2015 (held at Krav Maga MD -Owings Mills, MD) that will be announced next week.

 

More Blog Posts

writing-habitsPart of my resolution will be to make more blog posts about yoga through here. If there is something you want to know about yoga, please ask me. I love helping beginners out with yoga and it pleases me to see others progress in their own practice. Why do you think I became a teacher? I want to spread the joy and reward of yoga and dedication!

Finally, Gratitude

Those close to my heart have probably heard me thank them for supporting me in my dreams, goal and passion for yoga. Whether it was attending a class, helping me out financially, or spreading the word of any of my workshops. This goes out to all my students, supporters and those that gave me a challenge to overcome. You’ve all made me stronger and a better teacher, student, and person.

THANK YOU. I cannot say it LOUD ENOUGH!

10513257_542393285888626_3110906295878613380_n

Walk slowly with your emotions

There is an interesting book (amazon link to book) I’ve been reading about meditation and it’s effect on the mind and body. It’s a collaborative piece written by multiple experts in the fields of Psycholoy, Buddhism, and health professions, such as neurology. In the portion of the book that talks about meditation and emotion, it describes the process the human body, and mind, goes through when experiencing an emotion. Emotion is a fast response and usually subside. When we say we’ve been “feeling bad all day” what we’re doing is revisiting the same emotion, over, and over. We think the whole day has been “bad” when we really are just thinking about the same thing that gave us that emotion, calling for the response again, and again.

What I liked about this portion of the book was the scientific approach to understanding emotion and its relation with meditation. In this section, written by Erika Rosenberg, PhD, it talks about the observational skills of meditating that are similar to the observational process of the scientific method. Once more, it also also mentions how emotion is not something you can stop.

The point of meditation is not to eliminate emotions. It is to learn how to accommodate them skillfully and with compassion for oneself and others.” (Rosenberg, p.70)

This brings me back to the title of this blog post, Walk slowly with your emotions.

An emotional response occurs almost immediately following the event that triggers the response. It can be a powerful tool to aid in escape, recovery, temporary gains in strength, stress, and other effects on the mind and body. Before you let your emotions run away, instead try walking with them. Let them go, it’s okay. And as you continue to walk slowly with the emotions, you can welcome them and say goodbye on your terms, instead of running a race the you will never win.

Here are some things I do to help me reel in any runaway emotions:

When I feel angry
If I allow this emotion to persist, my teeth will grind, my jaw becomes tense, the shoulders arch up towards my ears and I feel heat all over my body. The heart rate increases and I start to have shallow breathe. Sometimes this does help me focus on whatever made me angry to solve the problem, which is a productive outcome of the process. However, if I’m still steaming over the subject or event I do the following: close my eyes, place my hands together, and take deep long breaths. My eyes closed, it allows me to feel the tension more-so in my body and I try to visualize the release of everything that feels tight. The deep breathing helps relieve all that tension within the body and then calms down the mind. Having my hands together gives me a feeling of compassion for myself and others, I am not longer clenching my fists or jaws.

When I feel anxious or nervous
Sometimes this is a good reaction to the feeling. You’re about to embark on a great journey. Of COURSE you’re going to feel nervous or anxious about the trip. My eyes may dart around, my breathing becomes quick and short, and my hands feel clammy. The feeling to disappear from public view starts to creep in. What I do: LAUGH! Reminding myself not to things “so seriously” and see them as events on a timeline versus events on their own. Everything is connected, in one way or another. So my anxiety is connected to my self-esteem. When I begin to laugh I remind myself of the strong person I am and how much stronger I want to become. It gives me ease to relax knowing that small mantra I’ve held close to my heart: today I’m stronger than yesterday.

When I feel sad
We’ve all had this feeling. Like the color we see today is not as bright as it usually is to us. The faces of others look like twisted masks covering the human flesh. When I’m sad, it’s easy to see on my face with my gaze low, shoulders rounded, and blank stare. Sometimes I have emotion about emotion. I get angry that I’m sad! I tell myself, “what do you have to be sad about?! There are others that have it worse off than you.” What do I do to get out of this loop? I use to EAT! That’s how I got over 200 lbs in my early twenties. I dealt with emotions as cover-up by food choice. Now, I MOVE MY BODY. When your mind wants you slow down and lament over the same emotion, again and again, movement helps your thought train move alone. Largely, I do yoga, but if I need something more up-tempo, I dance, by myself.

So there you go. Emotions come, Emotions go! (just like money, but that’s another topic) This is ONE of the MANY reasons I practice and teach yoga. It has helped me slow down and move through emotions, surpass challenges, and question myself. Yoga has given me the opportunity to connect with so many people in a way I thought never imaginable. When I first started yoga, I would laugh at the “yoga can transform you!” and other sayings. Now I find myself saying those same exact words. All you have to do is be open to change, and it will come. Follow your heart.

Again, if you’re interested in reading the book about meditation that I mentioned earlier, check it out on amazon:

meditationbookcover

 

Hey readers! If you have any other good books or articles to read, please leave them in the comments below! Also, feel free to share this post with others.

My first year as a white belt in BJJ

In July of 2013, I started learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (bjj for short) from my local bjj school, Wrightson of Towson. If you have ever done bjj, my experience may be similar to yours. If you’re looking into getting started with bjj, you may enjoy reading what I went through. I began as a yoga instructor there, teaching yoga classes twice a week and started watching the gi classes. It reminded me of my childhood. There was an innate desire to roll around with my fellow human being. Like everything you learn in life, you must start at the beginning. Going in to any new place can seem intimidating, though I must admit, being that “tomboy” during my childhood and into adulthood, I have always felt very comfortable around males. Regardless of my background, I was met with a friendly atmosphere of others like me that just wanted to learn. Lessons come in many different forms.

I had two weeks of training before sitting out for the next two months recovering from a planned surgery. I would still teach the yoga classes there but I recalled sitting on the couch just watching and wanting to practice the movements. I didn’t even know what I was watching. Had no clue what a “guard” was but I kept my eyes peeled because this was a new experience for me. A love was born, just like my immersion into yoga, I knew within the first month that this was something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life, happily. My clumsy wrestling childhood through trial and error was pitiful compared to actual instruction from an experienced teacher. Once I was cleared to train, I showed up to every single class my schedule would allow for. I felt like I was having three humans sitting on top of my body when I was pinned or that I flew off the person while in mount the first couple times. It was a little rough on my body at first. However, the body will adapt though and accommodate what you put it through. I also had a regular workout routine involving weights, cardio, and explosive movement exercises, coupled with my personal yoga practice that greatly assisted in the physical demands.

Soon, I started to see and feel a pattern with the movements. I saw a pattern with how I responded. Learning the fundamentals was exciting! The first step to a long journey I was happy to take. What greatly helped me the most, was my coach helping me develop my own style, and having reliable training partners.

Just a side note for those with long hair: Find a way to secure your hair. Nothing was more annoying to me (and still is) when my hair is pinned down to the ground and it affects my head movement. I MAY just learn how to braid my hair or continue the double pony tail holder bun technique. I keep teasing that I will come in bald one day but you know the saying “All truth in jest”, right? For now, I ask my sister to braid my hair into two french braids for tournaments.

10495299_536101149851173_3340123313387622022_o

Braided hair makes for easy maintenance during matches.

Continuing on, I went to other gyms and practiced with different people and different bjj styles from different states. I entered my first local tournament within the first 6 months of training and took second place. (Youtube Video Links: First match here and second match here) While there, I got to connect with more female competitors and was introduced to the Mid Atlantic Grappling Girls community, MAGG for short. (Facebook link to MAGG) I was introduced to many other women in the BJJ community and enjoyed the seminar. Usually, bjj and grappling classes are dominated by men so it was a great way to see future competitors and current practitioners gather together from all over the east coast!

Returning to my home gym after that tournament, I wanted to work harder and train smarter (my time was started to become limited as I was back in school and spent days studying and attending classes) to prepare for my next competition, the 2014 IBJJF NY Summer Open (Youtube Video Links: first match here and second match here). I went in Saturday with stitches still in my mouth from the emergency tooth extraction that was done a few days earlier, Monday (you can see in video 2 my reaction to having my mouth hit around the 0:45 second mark). I don’t think it affected my performance too much. Talking to other more experienced BJJ competitors, they all have gone through something like this.  Soon afterwards, I was promoted to blue belt at the gym, where I still train.

10492446_536100353184586_9001268512086511854_n

Standing with fellow Wrightson teammate, Brian, after we both took medals in our divisions of white belts.

A note on owning a Gi (Kimono): Having multiple gis is really helpful, and you won’t stink to your classmates. You constantly use them and they will wear out over time or in my case, if you train twice a day you won’t have time to wash and dry (air dry only!) the gi in that short amount of time, so you’ll need at least a second one to use in between washing the other gi.

When you find a passion, nothing is an obstacle. This is the first post of many on this subject. If you’re thinking of trying something out, do not hesitate. Tomorrow will never come, action is for the present.

What are you waiting for? Life is lived through the movement we do now!

 

Comment below if you want to share your current or previous white belt experience!

7 Things I’ve Learned From Teaching Yoga

October 9, 2014 is the official two year mark of my yoga teaching career. Taking a break from my normal schedule of fitness training, reading books and articles, watching anime, teaching yoga, and any other pursuits my heart desires, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect upon the path I have chosen. When we seek to do something our heart wants us to accomplish, it will never ever be a clear cut path. A straight forward path is something the mind creates. The heart can be strong and its message vague if we are not in tune with its communicating style. Below are my personal lessons (in no particular order) I’ve learned from teaching yoga over the past two years.

Feel free to chime in with what you’ve learned as either a yoga teacher, student, or someone just interested in yoga!

1. I absolutely love working with children and teaching them yoga!
If you were to ask younger Jen if she would like to work with children in the future, she would had said “I don’t think I’d do well with children.” or “I don’t think that’s for me.” Maybe that was true for past Jen. However, now I look forward to working with kids and teens with not just their physical practice, but allowing them to have the creative space to create, share and be safe with their peers in yoga asanas and related yoga activities. It started back in late 2013, I was asked to sub a children’s yoga class at one of the gyms I taught. I watched the interactions between the students and the teacher and wrote down as many notes as I could. All those notes are still somewhere but the tools I needed were already inside of me. Since that time, I’ve taught different kids yoga programs at various locations (A Step Ahead Dance Center, Krav Maga Maryland) and even helped with my first kids yoga camp this past summer at Glenelg Country School! It was an amazing experience to be there during the summer camp because I spent 20-30 hours per week with the children from age 5-12 and learned from an experienced children’s yoga teacher, Soil Sound!

Burning the candle at both ends metaphor

Burning the candle at both ends

2. Don’t Burn Out From Your Passion.
I’ll never forget what I learned from shadowing another yoga teacher during my YTT-200 Hour course. She was a well known yoga teacher for the area and I observed her packed class at a tennis and swim club. “Don’t burn yourself out within the first year” she told me as I asked her questions about teaching yoga and advice on how to be successful. Many times throughout my first year, I felt this burn out. Whenever I begin to have the feeling of burning the candle at both ends, I go back to my roots. I meditate and prioritize what is important for me, which leads to #3.

3. My health comes first.
You would think this was a given lesson to follow, coming from a yoga teacher and someone that promotes health, self-awareness, internal space for meditation, and other things to promote wellness within the body and mind, and that I would be a hypocrite to not take care of my own health. But where do you think I learned these things? Mostly through my own experiences with being unhealthy prior to even practicing yoga as a student. I was over-weight, eating junk food and fast food all the time, and not sleeping enough. This coupled with my working long hours sitting at a desk and continuing to sit at a desk during the evening at university classes, made a bad recipe in my early 20’s. Over that time I realized this one important rule to always follow before undergoing any adventure or business avenue, my health, both physical, mental, and emotional will always come first to me. We cannot take care of others if we first do not take care of ourselves.

The path to learning is the one you choose

The path to learning is the one you choose

4. Always seek out knowledge and experience in your craft.
To think you know everything about something means you create your own limitations. Constantly, I am reminded of the powerful healing potential and reports on meditation and yoga. When you reach your 200 hr certification to teach yoga, this is just the beginning. There is so much more information out there. Over the years I learned about the many styles of yoga (some in more details than others), something I may not have searched out while I was a student. When I went through my teacher training we covered Ayurveda in small detail and it ignited a spark to learn about other systems in the world people were using (for example, thai yoga massage!) for healing arts.

5. Allow your personality to come through while teaching.
I struggled with this for the first year. This is coming from a somewhat shy person who did not really open up to others until we became better acquainted, I was placing myself up there as a teacher each day. At first, I thought I had to fit this “mold” of what a yoga teacher is suppose to be like. However, this goes against the “yoga is for everyone” ideal. Yes, I’ll admit, it was a bit scary at first. There were times I would chastise myself for messing up on a command and it would throw me off if I dwelled on it. Opening up my heart to strangers was such a relief. This is who I really was and my students and fellow teachers could see this change. Now, I laugh along with my goofy sense of humor and really lame jokes I tell in class (For example: “Pretend you are in DBZ and releasing your kamehameha” or “Rock the boat in your Navasana!”) but I found people relax when I let down the barrier and their personal practice soars! It’s amazing to see someone struggle throughout the whole class and then when they get that “A-HA!” moment in one of the poses (usually Savasana) which usually leads to conversation after class.

6. Feedback is great! 
Being an art major during my undergrad time at the university, you get some pretty dicey dissections of your finished work on display during critique time. This has truly made accepting critique about my yoga classes much more pleasurable. Feedback is exactly what it is. Sometimes you look in the mirror and think you are seeing something different than you project. That can happen while teaching yoga. So yes, feedback, is great regardless of what is said. This also opens up the line of communication between the teacher and student. Maybe I was not clear on instruction for one of the asanas or my voice was hard to hear. Let me know! How else can I improve within the ideas of my head? This also leads to usually the student asking more questions about yoga and getting involved.

20120930-177

Enjoy your personal practice

 7. Practice! Practice! Practice!
As Pattahbi Jois (one of the founding fathers of Ashtanga Yoga) said , “Yoga is 95 percent practical. Only 5 percent is theory. Without practice, it doesn’t work; there is no benefit. So you have to practice, following the right method, following the steps one by one. Then it’s possible.*”  I’ve seen those numbers changed to 99% practice, 1% theory but the message is still loud and clear. Nothing can replace experience. Experience with a peaceful session. Experience with a clouded mind. Experience with failure. Experience with success. These an many more experiences found in yoga, not just the physical practice (asanas) but also in the mindfulness meditation and daily interactions with others is indeed a theory. How can I tell you to get into a posture without first doing it myself? Yes, of course on paper I can read (or video I can watch) about the asana. But what about the emotional and mental trail that comes along with getting into that posture? Going through the stages of your practice are unique to you, but as we share our experiences, we can learn from one another. That also leads me to my second part of this lesson. As my student, I will always encourage you to have a home practice as well. This will give you a different and more intimate space to practice your yoga and then hopefully bring questions, reactions, thoughts to me about your practice. I’m here to help you because yes, I too, love yoga! That is why I teach it and will continue to learn, live and enjoy life with yoga now a part of me.

Okay, so there are 7 things I learned over the past two years of teaching yoga. I’m sure as time progresses, I’ll revisit these lessons and expand/change/rewrite them as I continue to learn as well. Oh, and just a little progression pic. Here are two pics below. The one of me in blonde hair is when I first started teaching and the second one in brown hair is more recent.

 

 

 

*Quoted from an interview reprinted by http://www.ashtanga-yoga-victoria.com/k-pattabhi-jois.html